Friday, September 7, 2012

Going to Court: Dept. 30 IV, Gerhard Becker Case

September 6th, 2012
I was late getting out the door and traffic into downtown Los Angeles was bumper to bumper almost the entire way.  I made it onto the fifth floor, Department 30 right after 8:30 AM.  Fortunately, I didn't need to rush.  The courtroom didn't even open their doors until about 8:47 AM.

Although I didn't realize it, I rode the elevator up with Becker's defense attorney, Donald Re.  It had been two months since I'd seen him and I had forgotten what he looked like.

In the fifth floor hallway, Becker is standing next to his attorney, along with the same woman I saw him with at a prior hearing. The woman was wearing white pants with a matching jacket and a dark turquoise top.  Becker was dressed in a medium toned grayish looking suit. Since his back was to me most of the time from where I was sitting, I believe his shirt had a faint hint of champagne color to it that went well with his tie.  Becker, his companion and Re, appear to be relaxed and often smiling while chatting.

When the courtroom is opened, I grabbed a seat in the section reserved for media, police and counsel. The pretty Latino sheriff who assisted in Judge Perry's courtroom during the Lazarus case is at the bailiffs desk.  This is where defendant's who have appearances but no counsel line up to check in with the court.  Counsel go directly to the clerk's desk to check in with Judge Shelly Torrealba's clerk. When Donald Re enters the courtroom, he takes a seat on the bench directly in front of me.

The well area of the court has many desks and many are empty.  Over by the clerk's desk, I see Judge Torrealba standing without her robes.  From where I'm sitting, I can see that she is wearing a comfortable running or walking type sports shoe with her form fitting beige suit.

DDA Sean Carney arrives and shakes Donald Re's hand and they have a very amicable chat.  I overhear that they are discussing the next possible court dates.  Both counsel go up to the clerk's desk.

9:04 AM: DDA Frances Young arrives. She always looks perfectly put together.  She's wearing a berry-pink form fitting jacket with a bit of flair at the hips matched with a black skirt and three short strands of large pearls around her neck.  When she enters the well area, I see her give a big hug to a handsome black DDA whom I've seen in Judge Perry's courtroom months ago, who reminded me of the actor Blair Underwood.

It's 9:10 AM and Judge Torrealba hasn't taken the bench yet.  The group of attorneys who are now sitting in the row in front of me and beside me are chatting about a case but I don't really catch much of what they're saying.

Young and Carney leave the courtroom for a moment and at 9:13 AM Judge Torrealba takes the bench.  I turn around in my seat to see if I can see Becker but I can't find him in the packed gallery.  Re, who is now sitting back in the gallery, tries to stifle a yawn.

Young and Carney are back inside Dept. 30 now and sitting on the benches across the aisle to my left.  Young is showing a paper to Carney as they chat.  I note that Young's nails are painted a deep red color.

The Becker case is called.  Donald Re has filed a motion for continuance.  Judge Torrealba asks if there is no objection by the people.  Carney responds, "That is correct."  I believe it's Carney who goes onto say that "Counsel and I have tentatively scheduled the preliminary hearing for October 10th."  They expect the preliminary hearing to take two to three days.  They expect to go forward (with the prelim) on that date.

Judge Torrealba then addresses the defendant, explaining to him that he waives his right to have his preliminary hearing today, and that he will have his preliminary hearing within two court days of that (October 10th) date.  Becker responds, "Yes I do."  Torrealba states the electronic monitoring and bail is still in effect.  And that's it.  Young, Carney and Re all shake hands in the well as they leave.

After the hearing I made my way down to the second floor to get copies of motions filed in the Michael Gargiulo case.  (I will have links to those documents up on T&T momentarily. (Note: These documents can now be found on Gargiulo's "Quick Links" Page. Sprocket.)  It still amazes me that with all the advances in technology for hosting documents in digital form, the Los Angeles County Superior Court is still in the age of paper files.  As inconvenient as the process of requesting documents is, sadly, I understand that the State budget for keeping courtrooms staffed and open continues to shrink. The good news is, it's my understanding that a contract has been signed to upgrade and install 21 new elevators in the downtown criminal court building.  The project will take a few years, but at least the money has been found to upgrade the antiquated lifts.  Waiting for an elevator in the lobby can easily take 20 minutes or more, depending on the amount of traffic.